Using multi lingual Google Adwords for international export sales and market research

January 8th, 2009 · No Comments

Cheaper, better and faster ways to have new customers come to you.


Successful marketing managers are measured more by the quality and number of quality sales leads they generate than the soft fuzzy brand image stuff that hard nosed businesses deplore.

Smart marketing managers make sure they work for companies with compelling value propositions, rather than those who have little more than “the brand” going for them. This article is aimed at successful companies that are achieving good results using best practice with a low cost per quality sales lead.

As the title of the article suggests, and Google’s explosive revenue growth proves, it’s highly likely that any successful company will have at least experimented with Google Adwords. If your company is currently spending more than a million Euros a year on conventional marketing (conventional adverts, direct mail/telesales, trade fairs, and events) and has never spent anything on Google Adwords then something is almost certainly wrong. Even a few thousand well spent Euros/Pounds/Dollars on Adwords can generate better results than conventional marketing. This article is more aimed at readers who find this statement obvious rather than those who have yet to learn/understand. If you don’t understand and you want to keep your job, stop reading this article and learn about Adwords now.

Let’s take a fictional but potentially realistic case study (could this be you?)

You are a successful marketing manager. The company you work for defines the key goal of your department as “the number of high quality sales leads you generate for the sales team”. You generate leads, they sell. Suppose you spent GBP/Euro/ US$/ 20-50K on Adwords in 2008 and its been highly successful. The cost per high quality qualified lead was less than 40 Euros, and the sales team regard you as something of a hero. Senior management hasn’t quite “got it” yet, and still ike to go to expensive trade fairs, splurge on conference sponsorships, but you’ve been redirecting budget to on line and have cut Trade Press advertising completely. Your spend at Google is increasing. However all the planned Google Adwords advertising has been done in English, and you know that this isn’t smart. The multi lingual Adwords pilot was a fiasco (more on this later).

As a result of the global economic downturn, new international markets have been given a higher priority. The CEO and other main board directors, have been asking questions about countries in which the company doesn’t have a good position, and results are expected. The sales team expect you do help them in the same way you have in your traditional English language markets.

The familiar problem is people and resources. There are fewer people than a couple of years ago. The current view is that the existing team has to “try harder” meaning “put in more hours”. Its only when a group of countries gets in enough revenue that a dedicated person is appointed (and that is always in sales not marketing). Senior management is aware of the “chicken and egg” problem, but will not create new positions in marketing without a guarantee of a return. While they understand is that is impossible to visit all countries , they expect prioritization. Anyone who finds a solution can look forward to rapid advancement. The challenge is to know how to prioritize and how to spent scarce resources well.

Your in-house know how about Google Adwords is better than some consultants. You know what it means to have “content network” turned off, to reduce the low value click throughs. You are using Competitor activity is being analysed with “site-related keywords” in the keyword suggestion tool and with You have robust rapid site development so that well designed keyword rich landing pages for your campaigns can go up within 48 hours – learn more about landing page design here. If your in house team are too busy (sounds familiar) you have approved outsourced web developers who are quick, cheap and reliable. You are using exact matches and using Google Analytics Conversion Code to track the results. In English on line marketing, you are ahead of the game. The situation in foreign languages is however far from satisfactory. Looking to get the most of SEO and improve the ranking of your website? Then it may be in your best interest to check google keyword position, as this can help you understand what’s going on.

As a result of brainstorming and common sense, the idea of Adwords advertising in languages other than English has been considered and an unsatisfactory pilot has taken place The most successful keywords in English were translated, and keywords bought in French, Italian, German and Spanish. Most were surprisingly cheap usually except for some German keywords which were astonishingly expensive, suggesting that someone valued them very highly indeed. As a result of inadequate budgeting there we no dedicated localized landing pages in the language of the key words so to start with clicks were directed to the correct bit of “about us” on the corporate web site which is in German French Italian Spanish and Japanese. This produced reasonable traffic but a high “bounce rate” where visitors arrived and left almost immediately. Visitors arrived expecting to see information about latest products but soon discovered that the web site did not provide the product information they were looking for in the right language.

Dramatic and stressful situations arose in the headquarters where Italian and German speakers started calling up and finding that no one was available to talk to them. Marketing was made to feel stupid. Surely it was predictable that Adwords in Italian might lead to Italians calling up.

The second phase of the pilot was to direct the clicks to distributors’ web pages and country offices.

The distributors had no idea that their leads were arriving thanks to global marketing, but were olf course appreciative. A retrospective survey revealed that there was some increase in the number of leads coming off distributor web sites, but as distributor offers and promotions never matched exactly what was going on in the wholly owned subsidiaries, integration was hard.

The country offices were not set up to deal with sales leads generated in this fashion. Traditionally minded sales reps did not have the skills to properly and quickly qualify the leads, and some bad feeling was generated as sales managers grumbled about the fact that students and competitors were “wasting” advertising money on by clicking, And marketing felt their efforts were not being properly followed up on.

Conclusions, lessons to learn, and action items

The main lesson to learn and conclusion are that foreign language Google based market entry strategies can be a very cost effective way of generating sales leads and new potential distribution channels, provided the project is well executed. Objectives must be properly defined . The company must be prepared to deal with things they are not used to, like people ringing up who don’t speak your language..

Local language Google Adwords work if the results are measured according to traditional online advertising metrics. – they are cheap and people do click on them.

If you are doing the project in house, you need to prepare carefully, or if you want to outsource it, make sure that you use an experienced market entry consultancy that knows about internet and on line markets to set up the whole process with you.

You must review and define marketing campaign objectives before you start. Obvious objectives could include

– Market Research

– Finding a distributor- By-passing disloyal distributors- Rewarding and supporting good distributors- Generating leads for in house sales and business development executives There may well be additional business goals that you could also support through “Adwords plus a landing page” process, like selling excess stock, re-launching old products, finding acquisition targets, or new suppliers. It is a very flexible way to reach a new audience. But it is best to start with “low hanging fruit” IE projects which (if they succeed) will be regarded as a success by everyone, like “finding a distributor” in a country where sales are not satisfactory.

It’s obvious that it doesn’t make sense to do Adwords in Russian to promote a product that is not ready for the Russian market. If you do not have a distributor in Russia, or you have good reasons to believe that one or more of your products might sell very well there, then it can be a cheap and quick way to find out both if there is a market, and find a distribution channel.

It may be that you have a distributor (or more than one distributor) in a particular country, but you know that they are not always feeding sales leads to you because they offer more than just your products. Well targetted local language Adwords can very cheaply make sure that end clients find out about your offering , and depending on the situation you can handle the lead directly or pass it to a distributor with the best chance of winning.

The process is straightforward, once objectives have been decided.

Buy appropriate keywords. A knowledge of Google Adwords keywords is essential. If you don’t have experience in doing this in any language, engage a professional to get you up to speed. Do not necessarily rely on you web master or web development team unless you are sure they have the knowhow. Often companies feel that they should crack this issue in their home market before going international but this does not always make sense. A moment’s thought should tell you that there may be less competition for important keywords in for example Vietnamese or French, than English.

Developing a properly designed local language landing page to achieve your objectives. A Landing Page is the web page your potential client arrives at when they click on the link you are promoting through Google Adwords. A basic rule of on line marketing that the results are far better if people who click on a link arrive at pages that are designed with the campaign objective in mind. For example, a business to consumer company might want a landing page leading to the sale of a particular product, whereas a landing page designed for selling to businesses, (or premium consumer products like Ferraris or yachts) might focus on the objective of getting phone numbers and other contact details so that sales people can follow up later. Use a good translation company like Argos Translations for flawless translations. Ask for references, and evidence that they are using native speakers in the target language, and know about web page design issues. A bad first impression costs much more than the savings of having it done cheap.

Having appropriate tracking of the clicks. This is a task that many executives find alarming. Make sure that any experts and consultants are able to communicate the results in language that you understand with a strong grasp of the business implications. Google Analytics (GA) is a widely used tool, and it is easier to find experts to help with GA than any other.

Figure 1 Typical GA screen from a PMR site

Identifying who is going to deal with the results, especially from the point of view of language and time zone perspectives, and making sure that training is organised so they understand what you are trying to do. If there is one thing that is going to cause this project to fail, it’s will be the lack of preparation to handle the results in a professional way in the local language.

If there are no suitable in house staff, consider outsourcing the call handling. If you don’t have speakers of the language of the country you are targeting have a company like PMR set up the in bound call handling in the right time zone with a local number. On Line Chat is cheaper and more manageable but not as professional. For many potential business partners , getting voice mail will disqualify you as a potential business partner.

If the objective is to find a distributor an experienced export manager knows the questions they would like to ask of a potential distributor so your landing page must include that questionnaire. For some of the best companies that might like to be a distributor this is a highly sensitive topic with their existing vendors, so it is a good idea, to have the option “would you like us to call or discuss this face to face” as they may not wish to have anything in writing until they have met and trust you. Multi part landing pages, where the first step is to capture phone and e-mail is a good idea so that if a representative of an interesting company signs up you can call them if they drop out later in the process.

It is unlikely that you want a partner who speaks none of your languages but you will have enquires from senior executives who may not speak your language. You need to be ready to follow up fast and well with the good leads. This is easy to set up with a little experience

Use the opportunity to develop end client sales leads. Nothing will impress a potential distributor more than having some serious interest from end clients. You are going to be called by end clients, so the person doing it (whether in house or external) needs to be properly trained. You need to be aware of the fact that if you are not ready for sales in a particular country because – for example you don’t yet have localised packaging instruction manuals, and regulatory clearance from safety or other official bodies, this needs to be carefully communicated with potential customers. We recommend brainstorming the potential questions clients might ask, and writing best potential answers. For example, if a potential client asks “do you make product x?” and the person taking the call in a call centre in Vietnam doesn’t know, they should not truthfully say “ I don’t know”, but also truthfully say

“I’m not an expert in that area, can I take down some of your details and get someone to call you back? My main job is to make sure I understand your basic requirements and route your enquiry to the right person, what exactly do you want to use product x for?”

They may ask “where can I buy product x ” and in this case you can quite truthfully state that “we are looking at launching product x in Vietnam once we have service programmes set up”, and then ask questions like

what other products are you considering? ?”

“how much are you willing to pay?”

“What sort of products or solution are you using at the moment?”

to get a feel for their budgets and potential.

If you intend to generate leads in countries where you already have distributors you should communicate this clearly to the distributors and present it as a benefit. If they have good web marketing you may well want to them to organise appropriate landing pages. We know that distributors vary in quality. It’s best to work with the ones who see your web sales lead generation as a benefit and use the leads properly. You may want to introduce a different pricing strategy for “your” leads. You will need to have sensitivity to the delicate political issues of “who gets the lead” in countries where you have more than one distributor. This means that all leads generated need to be reported to the person responsible for managing distributor sales in that country. An automated system to forward leads is not a good idea. During a pilot Judgement is needed, and of course there are opportunities to steer and incentivize distributors to behave in the way you want by making clear that the ones who support your objectives either get better pricing or more access to the best leads.


This type of marketing costs a lot less than a stand at a trade fair, and more countries can be researched at the same time than would be feasible doing everything the traditional way.

A good campaign for the right company should generate enough profit to pay for itself in the first year. I t is clearly best to start in the countries where you are most confident of success, and if you are not sure about the way forward, talk to experienced market entry consultants who have the web design and language skills, and the commercial experience, to make a success of it.

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